Directed by Nora Ephron. Starring Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier. (2005, PG-13, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 24, 2005
This isn’t Nicole Kidman’s first dalliance with witchcraft, and it is one of Bewitched’s unfortunate achievements that it actually makes one pine for Kidman’s 1998 dud, Practical Magic. That witch at least had some sass; this cardigan-clad witch, alas, is an altogether more benign being, and by "benign" I mean boring. The so-very-meta premise goes as such: A closeted witch named Isabel (Kidman) is cast in a TV remake of the classic Sixties show starring Elizabeth Montgomery. Playing her TV husband, Darren, is Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), a washed-up movie star trying to make a comeback. Isabel, meanwhile, is trying to go straight (and the movie gets some laughs out of Isabel’s frequent falls off the no-witchcraft wagon); she takes the acting gig primarily because she likes the look of Jack and likes the idea of falling in love the old-fashioned way. The repurposing of classic television shows for feature film fodder is by now a rather stale business – a fact the script (by Ephron, her sister, Delia, and frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay) references in a tongue-in-cheek joke. In fact, it’s rather on the nose: Bewitched feigns like it’s doing something inventive but it’s really rather reductive, in both its only-when-convenient nostalgia for the original show and its borrowing of elements from other Ephron pictures (You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle). Wisecracking secondary characters are usually the filmmaker’s strong suit, but she overcompensates here with an excess of mostly unmemorable bit players. (Caine, as Isabel’s warlock father, is the one bright spot.) The lead characters are just as thinly sketched, as is their attraction. God only knows why Isabel settles on Jack, a preening prat; just as unlikely is everyone’s astonishment at Jack’s movie-star megalomania (the film is set in Hollywood – antics like Jack’s are a dime a dozen in that town). Ferrell, in need of a shorter leash, never makes the character any more than a caricature, and Kidman, in a rare comedic role, suffers, too. Her Isabel is, I suppose, an innocent, but that mistranslates into dimness (she doesn’t know what a "dick" is, which makes one wonder if chastity pledges are issued to witches along with their broomsticks). There’s a certain floofiness to Isabel, a trait common to Ephron’s woman-child characters. It’s a sort of a sexless ditziness that is meant to be endearing (and in Ephron’s most frequent leading lady, Meg Ryan, often is). But Kidman is too sharp an actress for so much cuddliness. If this misfire doesn’t convince her to hang up the pointy hat, then might I suggest a remake of Bell, Book, and Candle? Kim Novak’s cool seductress is exactly the kind of witchy woman Kidman was born to play.